Changing the User Agent in popular web browsers

At the beginning of the article, let's define a User Agent. It is a component of the data transmitted by a web browser to a server when a client accesses a website. This information specifies the browser in use, including its name, version, and any features or extensions. Occasionally, it may also contain details about the user's operating system. Typically, the agent is expressed as a textual string comprising various pieces of information.

Consider this standard representation of a User Agent sent to a server:

To interpret the code:

  • "Mozilla/5.0" represents the browser's general identifier;
  • "Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64" indicates the user's operating system, in this instance, the 64-bit version of Windows 10;
  • “AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko)” specifies the browser's development engine, varying by build and version;
  • "Chrome/88.0.4324.190" and "Safari/537.36" refer to additional browsers used for web page display, not set as default programs.

The User-Agent plays a crucial role, enabling websites to tailor content display and functionality to specific browsers and operating systems. Additionally, this technology is instrumental in traffic analysis and statistics gathering.

The impact of User Agent on anonymity

While modifying the User Agent in your browser impacts online anonymity and security, it's important to understand its role and the potential ramifications of altering its data. The technology poses certain risks to client devices:

  • It may disclose browser and OS details, enabling third parties to deduce firmware specifics. This information could be used to identify the client.
  • The browser fingerprint, which includes even minor OS characteristics like language and screen resolution, is stored and sent. Changing the User Agent to a random setting does not fully mask a user's identity.
  • An overly unique User Agent can attract attention. Websites read the data via JavaScript scripts and expect standard information. If the data received is unusual, the site may remember and later identify the user.

To enhance online anonymity, consider using proxies and virtual private networks. These tools obscure the real IP address, making client identification more challenging. Additionally, adjusting certain browser settings can prevent tracking of user actions, further bolstering anonymity.

Besides the previously mentioned measures, disabling JavaScript and clearing cookies can further prevent tracking by third-party web resources. However, achieving complete anonymity on the internet remains a challenging task. To enhance privacy and obscure online activities, a combination of methods is recommended. These include limiting tracking via browser settings (modifying JavaScript, WebRTC, and DNS parameters, and using a proxy pool with rotating IPs).

If you are wondering “what is my User Agent” and considering changing it, be aware of the potential consequences of incorrect configuration:

  • Some websites may become inaccessible, as they depend on User Agent information for proper content display.
  • Changing settings can expose other system weaknesses, potentially making you more visible online.
  • Disabling JavaScript to prevent tracking can significantly impair browser functionality. This affects dynamic elements and interactive features on web pages, potentially disabling forms, feedback mechanisms, animations, etc.
  • Websites may block access if they can't detect information about your browser and OS. Proxies or VPNs can be used to circumvent this.
  • Online applications, like office suites or OneDrive, rely on User Agent data. Incorrect information can cause synchronization issues between PC and online content.
  • Without proper OS and browser type information, the risk of encountering phishing sites or inadvertently downloading malware increases.

Proper configuration of the User Agent is vital to transmit necessary data to remote servers while maintaining user anonymity. The following sections provide specific debugging instructions for popular browsers.

How to change User Agent in Chrome

Accessing and modifying add-on data in browsers is not a routine user activity. Such changes can only be made through specialized methods such as the developer panel, command line, or by installing specific extensions from the official browser stores. Below, we will explore three distinct methods to view and change the User Agent in Google Chrome.

Through the developer panel

  1. On Windows/Linux, you can open the developer-only debug menu in Google Chrome by pressing “Ctrl + Shift + I” or “F12”. On Mac, use “Cmd + Option + I”. Alternatively, access this menu through the console: right-click in any area of a webpage (including the start page) and select “View Code”, “Examine”, or “Inspect”, depending on your browser version and OS.
  2. The console appears on the right side of your browser window. At the top of the console, you'll find a close button (marked with a cross) and a menu button (three vertical dots). Click on the menu button.
  3. In the menu, select “More Tools”, then choose “Network Conditions”.
  4. Within this section, you'll see the "User agent" settings, which are enabled by default. To modify these settings, uncheck the “Use browser default” option.
  5. Proceed to the “Custom” section for manual configuration. Here, you can select a preferred browser type to represent your device when communicating with resources. There is no need to change the information in the bottom line, as it is generated automatically.

Editing data via the command line

To display and modify the User Agent in Google Chrome using the command prompt, you can use the «--user-agent» flag.

  1. You can open Command Prompt either by searching it or by using the Run window. To use the Run window, press “Win + R” on your keyboard, type “cmd” in the new window, and then press “Enter” or click “OK”.
  2. In the Command Prompt, enter the following command: chrome.exe --user-agent="Your new User Agent". Be sure to replace “Your new User Agent” with the actual User Agent string you wish to use. An illustrative example is shown in the screenshot below.

Note that this change will apply only to the current Chrome session. Once you close and reopen the browser, the settings will revert to their default state.

Using third party programs

Changing the User Agent data via a browser extension can be beneficial if you use reliable and popular resources. To do this in Chrome, follow these steps.

  1. Open your browser menu, click on the “Extensions” tab, and then select “Visit Chrome Web Store”.
  2. Type “user agent” in the Chrome Web Store's search bar and press “Enter” on your keyboard.
  3. The search results will display several options. For this guide, let's select the current first result, “User-Agent Switcher for Chrome”. Click on it.
  4. On the extension's page, click “Add to Chrome” and confirm the installation in the pop-up window.
  5. After installation, an icon for the add-on will appear in the top bar of your browser. Click on this icon and from the drop-down list, choose the browser you want to display in your User Agent settings.

Once the settings are adjusted, refresh your webpage to apply the changes, but do not restart the browser.

Changing User Agent in Opera

Configuring User Agent settings in the Opera browser follows a similar process to that in Google Chrome.

  1. Open Opera and go to the developer menu. This can be done by pressing “CTRL-SHIFT-I” or through the main menu. To use the main menu, click on the red "O" at the top left corner of the screen, select “Developer”, and then “Developer tools”.
  2. In the developer panel, click on the three vertical dots in the top menu bar. Choose "More tools", then open the “Network conditions” debug panel.
  3. In the new window, under the “User agent” tab, uncheck “Use browser default”. This action will enable manual configuration options.
  4. Click on the “Custom” tab and select your preferred option from the list. This selection determines what is displayed to the resource when your PC connects to it. The line below is filled in automatically.
  5. Scroll down and click the “Update” button to activate the new settings for your internet connection.

Remember, these settings are only valid for the current browser session and must be manually changed each time.

Alternative ways of adjusting the User Agent in Opera can also be done using browser or command line flags. For flag-based debugging, type “opera:config#UserPrefs|CustomUser-Agent” into the address bar. However, this method may not work in all versions of Opera, and the process is the same to the instructions for Google Chrome.

How to change User Agent in Firefox

Changing the User Agent data in Firefox is straightforward and accessible for users of all levels using browser flags.

  1. Open Mozilla Firefox. In the address bar, type "about:config" and press Enter.
  2. You'll see a warning about the potential risks of modifying advanced settings. Accept the risk to proceed with configuration.
  3. In the search bar that reads “Search parameter by name”, type “general.useragent.override”.
  4. The default setting for this parameter is "Boolean". Change this by selecting the “String” option and then clicking the “plus” icon on the far right of the line.
  5. In the new empty field, enter the desired User Agent data. Our example uses random information, but you can input specific parameters. Once finished, click the “Save” checkbox on the right side of the line.
  6. The newly created data can be edited or deleted. Clicking the “pencil” icon opens an editing form, while the trash can icon allows you to delete the details.

Similar to other browsers, Firefox also supports the use of extensions from its official store for this purpose.

Changing User Agent in Safari

Adjusting User Agent settings in Safari, the browser from Apple, is primarily done through the developer panel.

  1. Open Safari. At the top left of the window, click on the Safari tab and select "Preferences".
  2. In the Preferences window, click the gear icon located in the upper right corner. At the bottom of this window, enable the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” option.
  3. Return to the main browser window. You’ll now see a “Develop” menu in the top menu bar. Click on it. Within the drop-down menu, hover over “User Agent” to view the available options for setting. Select the desired browser to represent your User Agent data to resources. If none of the preset options fit your needs, choose “Other” and enter your specific parameters.

Unlike the previously mentioned browsers, Safari does not support extensions for changing User-Agent settings, making this approach the primary method. However, you can still use browser flags, command line, and other tools for network configuration changes in Safari.

How to change User Agent in Microsoft Edge

Managing settings in Microsoft Edge can be done using browser flags, internal settings, or extensions. The most common method involves using the browser menu.

  1. Open Microsoft Edge. In the upper right corner, click on the icon with three horizontal dots and select “Settings”.
  2. In the new window, find the “System and Performance” section towards the bottom of the left frame. Click on it and scroll to the bottom of the page to find the “Developer Tools” section. Ensure that the feature slider is activated.
  3. Typically, the developer console in Edge can be opened with the F12 key. Press this key while in the browser to open the console in a new window.
  4. The debugging process in Edge is similar to that in Google Chrome and Opera. In the console window, click on the "Menu" icon (three vertical dots). Select “More tools” and then open the “Network conditions” section.
  5. In the "User agent" section, uncheck the "Use browser default" option.
  6. Expand the “Custom” options by clicking the arrow on the right. Select the browser type you wish to display in the client information when connecting to resources.
  7. There are further settings labeled “User agent client hints” that can be customized but are optional. Once you've completed adjusting system parameters, click the “Update” button. No browser restart is required.

For frequent changes to browser data without adjusting settings each time, consider using extensions like FingerPrint Switcher.

Leave comment

No comments